Steve Mitchell had not been working for Irish telecom giant Eircom for even half a year before he decided that it was time to explore other opportunities.
For the previous 4 months, the seasoned operations executive had been commuting weekly to Dublin, Ireland, from his home in the United Kingdom as he sought to nurture Eircom’s waning mobile customer relationships.
However, Eircom’s CFO upended Mitchell’s plans by offering him the position of corporate finance director.Read More
“I went over there for a few months and ended up staying for 4-1/2 years,” recalls Mitchell, who still seems surprised by the CFO’s job offer. “I hadn’t even worked in finance during the previous 8 years.”
Over the next 18 months, Mitchell’s responsibilities would expand to include investor relations, treasury, M&A, and running Eircom’s cap ex committee.
Besides regularly delivering investor presentations, at one point Mitchell found himself before the European Commission, defending Eircom’s competitive position relative to recent telecom market consolidation.
“Since those first couple of years with Eircom, nothing has really phased me,” remarks Mitchell, whose appointment came as Eircom was making the business case with its board and investors to lock in a first-mover advantage when it came to rolling out a 4G network across Ireland.
Given the breadth of Mitchell’s functional responsibilities, it soon became clear that he was also expected to rally the internal finance team to bring forth the financial insights required to move the business case forward.
“The finance people working on the fiber rollout business case could have either sat and fiddled with spreadsheets for months or else put the bit between their teeth and realized that they were about to drive the biggest decision that the business was going to make all year,” comments Mitchell, who adds that while his years at Eircom revealed to him the complexity of leadership decision-making, they also exposed how finance looms large.
Says Mitchell: “A couple of really good pieces of analysis from the finance team ended up driving management and board decisions with regard to where that cap ex would go and whether we were ready to make the move.” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Redgate Software … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Mitchell: I won’t get too technical, because I’m not a technical guy myself. When you’re making changes to your systems internally—if you think about the finance system, for example—you’re dealing with a set of fields with a ton of data in them. If you want to add a new field or a bunch of new data or you’re going to make some sort of change, the IT team is going to do that. They don’t just go in and deploy a change. They have a test environment, and they test everything. They probably get you in to do the UAT and make sure that everything works, and then they deploy the change into production, after which you can actually use it in your business.
We make sure that the risk is low and that they can use what tends to get called DevOps these days to make small changes rapidly while at the same time keeping the business agile. This is the bulk of what our software does. There are other bits as well, but this is really the key thing.
I’m perhaps oversimplifying a little, but we help businesses with their agility in deploying such changes.Read More
I’m broadly cautious about the next 12 months in terms of the economy and the market, especially in the UK and Europe and maybe a little bit less so in the U.S. As CFO, I try to keep in mind Jack Reacher’s motto in one of my favorite novels: Hope for the best and plan for the worst. My main priority as CFO right now is to help our business to take advantage of the great financial position that we’re in. We have no debt, and we have cash in the bank. Therefore, in a measured way, we can make investments even through what is a fairly turbulent time.
So, I’m all about supporting the rest of the business in executing well on such investments and, obviously, tracking the return on them before, hopefully, making even more investments. This is where the priorities lie for me. I feel pretty lucky to be in the business that I’m in and to be able to think fairly expansively about things rather than have to prioritize refinancing or cost-cutting. Not that we’re not looking to be efficient, but I feel pretty privileged to be in a firm in a position like ours, with the team that I get to work with. jb
“Ensuring your management team are A-players will hugely impact the positive influence of your team across the business, your ability to be a broad business leader and your enjoyment in the CFO role. Talk directly to customers – regularly. Reading the Board paper on customer satisfaction or NPS isn’t enough.” – Steve Mitchell, CFO, Redgate Software
Redgate Software | www.red-gate.com | Cambridge, UK